You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Peaceful legacy still shines on Helfgott

AAP logoAAP 11/08/2016 Danielle McGrane

It's been 20 years since the release of Shine, the Australian film that changed David Helfgott's life.

The movie, which landed Geoffrey Rush the Best Actor Oscar in 1997, memorably charted Helfgott's life, from his youth as a piano-playing prodigy who suffers a breakdown and winds up playing in a wine bar in Perth before being rediscovered as a pianist.

But it was the depiction of his abusive father, and Helfgott's relationship with him, that ultimately led to a personal breakthrough for the pianist.

"The film gave him something that is utterly priceless and that is a greater peace within himself, because he'd shared the pain of life with his father and sharing that pain was as if a burden was taken from him," Helfgott's wife Gillian told AAP.

Helfgott, who is often incorrectly said to have schizo-affective disorder, was recently diagnosed with asperger syndrome and tourette syndrome after an MRI and consultation with a professor of neuropsychiatry, according to his wife.

"I also just tell people he's delightfully eccentric," she said.

Twenty years later, the film's director Scott Hicks also revealed where its title came from.

"It started because I wanted to use the Pink Floyd song, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, in the film, but we couldn't afford to," Hicks told AAP.

But in so many of Helfgott's own scrapbooks, the word kept appearing in newspaper headlines harking back to his childhood such as "David shines" or "Young pianist to shine in contest".

"It really had a connection and turned out to be a really memorable title," Hicks said.

Since the movie the focus in Helfgott's life has continued to be his music. He plays concerts all over the world with his wife by his side.

The film gave him the freedom to do that.

"Since Shine, David doesn't have to explain himself any more to people. He just is. And people recognise him and think, `Oh there's David Helfgott`," Hicks said.

"That first impression that he makes with people no longer has them on a backward step instead they know the story."

Helfgott will perform in Canberra this weekend to mark the film's anniversary and set to appear in the Sydney Opera House in October. Next year he will also tour Europe.

His career as a pianist has been thriving since the film's release in 1996.

"The best thing that really ever came out of the movie was that it gave a gift back to David which was his lost career," Hicks said.

* David Helfgott will perform at the Film Archives, Canberra, on Saturday to celebrate Shine. The film is being screened in cinemas throughout the country in celebration of the 20th anniversary

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon